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The whole enchilada: Integrated compute platforms steamroll across IT

Steve Duplessie | May 22, 2013
Vendors are rebuilding the mainframe with converged infrastructure, collapsed kit or integrated compute platforms -- whatever you want to call it. And customers are loving it.

Now, there are three ways to play in the ICP world: do it yourself (buy up all the pieces and put it together on your own), leverage a reference architecture, or buy it turnkey.

DIY is old school. It's not what folks are doing unless they have to, or are seriously bored and just want to. Reference architectures are very popular, and "semi-configured" kit has been successfully marketed by the likes of EMC (the VSPEX initiative) and NetApp/Cisco (FlexPod). Many customers are relying on their distribution/channel resellers to build them a stack that is relatively easy to support. Compared with traditional methods of dragging in a thousand components and putting it all together, this has been an improvement welcomed by buyers of IT stuff. Judging by the numbers, demand is increasing.

But turnkey is turning back time. Steve Jobs was the first of our generation to recognize that in order to control the user experience, you had to do it all -- soup to nuts. The philosophy has served Apple well. It was the same thing that IBM had done with the mainframe, controlling the whole enchilada. Eventually, of course, we all reacted against IBM's mega-control in a big way, because of the fear of a single supplier, higher cost, etc. They were all valid concerns -- then.

Today, the soup-to-nuts stack is selling like mad because the benefits of tight integration and streamlined support are creating operational efficiencies so great that they far outweigh the potential negatives -- at least to a huge percentage of the market. We've come full circle.

Take Oracle, for example. Oracle is the only systems vendor building a truly 100% Oracle super-stack -- named Exadata. Oracle OS, Oracle applications, Oracle database, and all-Oracle kit. Oracle sales, support and services, too.

Best of breed? Nope. But it hasn't mattered all that much. When you have an effective monopoly on the one piece that is critical and expensive as all get out (the database), the other pieces don't have to be perfect -- just good enough. The integrated benefits outweigh the risks or shortcomings in the mind of the majority of that market.

A software company that had never sold hardware before a year ago or so is selling lots of it now. "Hardware, the software delivery system" might as well be Oracle's new tag line. Oracle customers, who are happy to tell anyone who'll listen how much they hate Oracle, are gobbling up these stacks. Why? Because it's easier. It's not cheaper -- it's easier.

I look at SAP and just know it has to be driving someone there mad that it gets boxed out of deals where it might have a better point solution but Oracle has the "appliance" factor. I don't know how much it's costing SAP, but I guarantee you it's costing -- these deals are big, for many millions of dollars. And SAP is missing out on those deals because a lot of SAP customers want easier too. They want someone to give them the whole enchilada.


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